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Charles Langford v. Michael J. Astrue

May 31, 2012

CHARLES LANGFORD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Charles Langford filed this action on June 20, 2011. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge on July 18, 2011. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) On February 24, 2012, the parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") that addressed the disputed issues. The court has taken the matter under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the court remands this matter to the Commissioner for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 29, 2008, Langford filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of May 1, 2003.*fn1 AR 21, 145-51. The application was denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 21, 71-72. Langford requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). AR 104. On April 23, 2010, the ALJ conducted a hearing at which Langford, a medical expert, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. AR 39-66. On May 18, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 18-31. On April 13, 2011, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-4. This action followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this court reviews the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence, or if it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

"Substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. In determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. When the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must defer to the Commissioner's decision. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Disability

A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such benefits, "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S. Ct. 376, 157 L. Ed. 2d 333 (2003) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

B. The ALJ's Findings

The ALJ found Langford has the severe impairments of hepatitis C infection; HIV infection; neuropathy; depressive disorder, not otherwise specified; and polysubstance abuse, in remission. AR 23. Langford has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work with restrictions. AR 25. He can lift/carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently, and sit, stand and walk 8 hours in an 8 hour day. Id. He is precluded from working at heights, near open pools of water, or around heavy moving machinery. Id. He is limited to the performance of moderately complex tasks with up to 4 to 5 step instructions. Id. He is "limited to a relatively habituated workplace setting with limited or no contact with the public." Id. He must be afforded the use of a cane on an as-needed basis. Id. ...


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